Genre: Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Directed by: Robert Schwentke
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Theo James, Kate Winslet
It is perhaps with great misfortune that The Divergent Series found its way to the big screen after Suzanne Collins similarly themed Hunger Games saga. If Veronica Roth’s series about a world divided up into factions based on personality traits had hit the big screen first, then perhaps it might not have been overshadowed by the Mockingjay. Comparisons are not unfair. Despite a variety of small changes, Roth’s Divergent series utilizes similar ideas and themes of a young girl fighting against a totalitarian despot in a world divided into communities that are distinguished by some defining trait or characteristic.
Upon its release, the first film in the series, Divergent, managed to acquit itself admirably, scoring healthy numbers at the box office. But despite being a diverting piece of fluff entertainment, it struggled to escape the shadow of its vastly superior bow-wielding counterpart.
So what of Insurgent? Can the second part in the series escape the confines of YA dystopia and deliver something more? The answer is a resounding and disappointing no.
Picking up where the last film left off, Tris and her companions (a collection of Woodley’s love interests from other movies) find themselves on the run from the villainous Jeanine (Winslet) and the Erudite faction. Tris is still reeling with guilt over her parent’s deaths and quickly plots swift revenge against Jeanine (her cold blooded feelings dramatized by a dramatic new hairstyle). Avoiding the authorities, they link up with the Factionless led by Naomi Watts’s President Alma – ahem, I mean, Evelyn.
Meanwhile, Jeanine has discovered a mysterious box that only a Divergent can open. But not just any old Divergent. Yes, low and behold, as it transpires, Tris is in fact the only person who can open the box and reveal its mysterious message.
There’s no question that Divergent suffered greatly under the weight of its moronic premise and a sheer reliance on exposition. Thankfully though, much of that is gone this time around with the emphasis squarely on the action. There’s plenty of running, shooting and fighting for Tris and her friends to contend with, but unfortunately it comes at the expense of any narrative logic or drama. Much of the drama is weighted upon Tris and Four’s lacklustre and snooze inducing romance, while a reunion with Four’s abusive father and long lost mother is swiftly handled and pushed to the sidelines.
The simulation sequences – one of which features Tris dive-bombing around fiery buildings that are floating across a ruined landscape – are pretty spectacular to behold, but because the drama is so lacking and so rudimentary, the result is essentially hollow window dressing.
Shailene Woodley does her best to hold things together and fits far more comfortably and less awkwardly into Tris Prior’s shoes than she did last time around. The rest of the cast are universally bland and lifeless with only Miles Teller offering some semblance of screen charisma, proving why this man is quickly on course to be a major movie star in years to come.
The script is also loaded with conveniences and contrivances. Once it becomes clear that Tris is in fact ‘The One’ eyes are rolled and sighs are quickly exhaled. The problem of course is not necessarily with the script but the source material upon which it is based. It may be unfair to compare the two, but the Divergent Series still has a long way to go to escape the shadow cast by The Hunger Games.